My failure to distinguish between toffee, caramel and butterscotch sauces and their candy equivalents in an earlier post got me into some well-deserved hot water (syrup?). I confess it had never really occurred to me before, not being much of a confectioner, but caramel sauce is not necessarily just melted or diluted caramel. Indeed, chewy caramel candies are made by cooking caramel to the firm ball stage (248F). Caramel sauce is made by cooking sugar until it practically burns (300 – 330F or even more if you like it smoky!).
Similarly, toffee candy is made by cooking butter, brown sugar (and often some white sugar) to the hard ball stage (265F or so). Butterscotch candy, by cooking roughly the same ingredients to the soft crack stage (290F or so). This is what gives these candies different textures at the candy store. Butterscotch and toffee sauces, at least to my mind, are all but indistinguishable as they call for mostly the same ingredients (butter and brown sugar plus cream and maybe some vanilla) cooked until the mixture is homogenous and maybe a touch reduced.
So: candy, sauce. The processes for making each are surprisingly different. Shame on me for not calling that out sooner!